Cus Words: Michigan Week 2013

After a brief look back at the Indiana game, we shift our focus to Ohio State's yearly clash with Michigan. History always plays a large part in this week even if it really has nothing to do with what happens after kickoff Saturday. But isn't it hard to really believe that?

What we learned last week:
Football in the snow is fun, no matter the level, and these Buckeyes have figured out a thing or two about focus.

I would rate the 42-14 victory Saturday in the home finale as a workmanlike win for Ohio State. Braxton Miller was back to his efficient, play-making ways, the offensive line continued to dominate and Carlos Hyde hit the 1,000-yard mark.

Indiana's very good offense piled up some yards as the day went on, but both touchdowns certainly qualify as products of garbage time.

That about it? OK, let's move along here…

What we can expect to learn this week:
Oh, were you expecting more from the Indiana review? Well, I apologize. We still will look back at the film of the game to see what was working and why (and the flip side), but everyone knows nothing that ever happens against the Hoosiers compares to a date with Michigan.

The Wolverines will be wounded as they play host to Ohio State. There is no doubt about that, but I'm not sure how much an appeal to their pride will help them at noon Saturday.

This is not one of those vintage 1990s Michigan teams that was stocked with future NFL players but underachieved in October or early November then re-awoke on the last week of the season to ruin the Buckeyes' dreams.

Michigan's record is what it is because Brady Hoke's team has major flaws, and those start up front, especially on offense. That, coincidentally, is the worst place to have flaws if you're the type of team Hoke wants Michigan to be.

In Devin Gardner, Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess, the Michigan offense has some great pieces to work with, but any preseason predictors who had the Wolverines near the top of the Big Ten were doing so with reliance on a very young group of interior linemen being more ready to play than is probably reasonable to expect. That becomes doubly problematic with offensive coordinator Al Borges' insistence on making Hoke's dream of a power-based Big Ten offense reality.

Borges has a been punching bag this season for misplaying the cards he has been dealt, but I don't necessarily think that means all is lost for the future. Gallon will be gone next season, but some seasoning could do those who return a lot of good and make the whole operation run much better next season.

But that is to talk about later. Right now nothing is more important than what happens this Saturday in Ann Arbor, and Michigan's playmakers give the Wolverines a puncher's chance to pull what would be a bigger upset than we ever saw in the ‘90s.

Of course, this is not like the 2008-10 seasons, either, when Michigan really had no realistic chance to compete with the Buckeyes even if Ohio State played poorly.

The best parallel I could draw might be 2004, though I would have to thank Kirk Barton for bringing it up (maybe inadvertently) as we were talking about his experiences against the Wolverines for a BSB print feature called, "Michigan Memories."

That year Ohio State was a young squad that took some lumps during the season and Michigan entered The Game highly ranked and already assured of at least a share of the Big Ten title.

The Buckeyes not only won but dominated, and that turned out not to be a fluke considering Ohio State went on to win its bowl game and post a 33-5 record the next threes seasons. The quarterback won the Heisman Trophy, the top four receivers were all drafted, as were the top two running backs, and the offensive line rounded into a very good unit for much of that time.

The recruiting rankings, which can of course be fool's gold but on a macro level are pretty accurate, say Michigan is sitting on more talent than has showed itself so far, but much of it remains very young. There is no guarantee the recruiting victories will eventually pay off or that Hoke and his staff are the men to make it do so, but it's worth considering all sides of the situation here as we kill time waiting for the game that matters most of all every college football season.

I have to admit there is probably a permanent mark on my soul from those 1990s encounters – though it doesn't seem to compare to first-hand memories others have of the upset Michigan pulled in 1969.

There are some parallels between that season and this one, though they have declined as the season has worn on. I think that loss was more damaging than this one would be and those teams were perhaps more evenly matched than these ones.

Although folks were writing about the best game of the season being one between the Ohio State defense and the Ohio State offense in 1969, Michigan ended up being the Big Ten champion by beating the Buckeyes. That would seem to make it clear Bo Schembechler's first team had a lot more going for it in November of 1969 than his protege Hoke's does in November of 2013.

Of course, none of this history means anything when the teams take the field Saturday. Then it will still come down to what goes on between the lines, and Ohio State has a clear advantage at a lot of positions.

Michigan will probably have to play nearly a perfect game to pull the upset, and the Wolverines haven't shown much this season to indicate they have that in them.

But, as they say, that's why they play the games.

So what can we learn this week? Nothing – other than the tone of two states' thoughts on football between now and the start of next season.

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